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United Nations Women’s Guild — Geneva
Helping children in need
Photo credit: UN/Jean-Marc Ferré
Marie-Paule Martinelli, Chairperson of Bazaar 2010 (in the centre) and Sergei Ordzhonikidze, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG)

The year 2010 marked the 40th birthday of the United Nations Women’s Guild (UNWG) of Geneva. Inspired by the UNWG of New York, a few enthusiastic women got together in 1970 to start a similar voluntary association in Geneva. From an initial membership of some 60 women, UNWG-Geneva has grown to its present size of more than 500 members.

In the Guild, women from more than 100 countries share opportunities for learning, self-improvement and recreation. They also raise funds to help finance projects around the world. In its 40 years of existence, UNWG-Geneva has been able to finance roughly 1600 projects in over 100 different countries, at a cost of more than 6.7 million Swiss francs.

International friendship and understanding

The UNWG-Geneva is a place where international friendship and understanding can grow. This is a place where Guild members give their time and talent. With monthly activities that include a book club, a cinema club, organized cultural visits in Switzerland, and coffee mornings hosted by various Permanent Missions of UN Member States, Guild members can have plenty of fun.

Helping the children of the world

Along with having fun, the Guild focuses on its main objective — to allow the women of the world to help the children of the world!

Women of all nationalities and cultural backgrounds gather to raise funds in order to finance important projects for needy and vulnerable children in various developing countries of the world. All the benefits from fundraising activities are entirely allocated to finance small-scale projects.

Projects are submitted by Guild members with first-hand knowledge of children’s needs in different parts of the world. These Guild members identify where the Guild’s action is most needed, and guarantee the proper implementation of the projects that the Guild supports financially. Letters received from beneficiaries are often very moving.

Promoting education

The Guild’s support is traditionally oriented towards education. For example, the Guild pays for books, school uniforms, educational materials and classroom equipment. There is also a focus on vocational training for children and young women, to provide them with income-generating skills. Other forms of assistance include training for teachers and students in fruit and vegetable gardening, so that the produce can be used to prepare meals in the school’s kitchen. The Guild is particularly attuned to the needs of vulnerable groups and, for example, provides hearing aids for deaf children, as well as paying for the building and equipment of play areas for sick or disadvantaged children.

Investing in information technology

UNWG-Geneva recognizes the growing importance of information technology in daily life, and finances the purchase of necessary equipment in various regions of the world, most commonly for schools or local nongovernmental organizations. The direct beneficiaries of the Guild’s help in the field of technology are children. In the past two years, approximately 10 per cent of the Guild’s total project funding has been directed to information technology.

The Guild is asked to finance not only the purchase of computers or laptops, printers and computer furniture, but also DVD players, liquid-crystal display (or LCD) projectors, screens, televisions, amplifiers, microphones, special keyboards and special software (for example, Braille). There is also the financing of workshops focused on basic training in various text processing and Internet applications.

The Guild pays particular attention to projects designed to help children living in slums, street children, orphans and children living in rural areas. The Guild provides these children with first-time access to information technology education, thus redressing the inequality between those who have access to computers and the Internet in their homes, and those who cannot afford such access. Watching cultural and educational films not only helps children to learn and enlarge their vision, but also offers benefits to entire villages in the remote areas where the schools that are helped by the Guild are located.

The annual bazaar and other special events

In order to finance its projects, Guild members organize various fund-raising events. Perhaps the best known is the UNWG Annual Bazaar — one of Geneva’s most Colourful events, which traditionally takes place in November in the Palais des Nations. International handicraft stalls and food stalls sell their products to a large mixed crowd of locals and expats. This is a genuinely multicultural event, where a cheerful crowd of people are happy to be together and celebrate their differences. They are also united by the noble idea of raising funds for children in need.

The Children’s Walk is another of the Guild’s special events. This walk raises awareness among children that not all the world is a happy place like Geneva, but that we can make a difference by working together. The Guild’s special events programme also includes art exhibitions and cultural evenings.

A warm welcome

Guild membership is open to any woman officially connected by work or relationship with the UN, the specialized agencies, the permanent missions to the United Nations, or any of the intergovernmental organizations with headquarters in Geneva. The Guild warmly welcomes new members, especially those who have recently arrived in Geneva.


Contributed by the United Nations Women’s Guild of Geneva


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